Dundee Precious Metals Tsumeb (DPMT), which operates the copper smelter just outside Tsumeb, has denied allegations by an international non-governmental organisation, BankWatch, that its hazardous waste disposal site is nearing capacity.
According to DPMT, BankWatch is a European-based NGO with a long history of being against mining of any sort. The mining company asserted its disposal site is not at all near capacity but instead has sufficient capacity through to 2025.
“Many other countries manufacture and export arsenic containing products for use all over the world in different industries. Namibia is no different. We take a by-product from smelted concentrate and convert it into a useful product. Residual products we then simply store in a licensed waste facility, built to handle potentially hazardous chemicals,” reads a statement from DPMT.
DPMT explained that when it acquired the smelter in 2010, it did so knowing that environmental controls would require a major improvement. Part of the improvements have been to develop a proper waste management facility, improving the arsenic handling within the processing plant and implementing environmental monitoring procedures throughout Tsumeb, the results of which are available to the community.
“We have also commissioned our state of the art sulphuric acid plant, which will significantly reduce the SO emissions that have plagued Tsumeb since the smelter was opened some 50 years ago,” reads the statement from Dundee.
According to Dundee the arsenic by product is transferred from its processing plant to the waste disposal site in used bags, which are bought from a local sugar company.
“We recycle and reuse these empty bags. The bags are kept wet to prevent any airborne dust and they are subsequently compacted and buried in our waste disposal site. “The site is licensed by the government, regularly inspected and is similar to comparable disposal sites around the world. Our waste site has a state of the art air quality monitoring station 10 metres from the edge of the facility that is independently monitored and accessed to ascertain if there are any emissions from the facility towards Tsumeb.”
DPMT explained that the data which is provided to government is available for public review. The facility has a number of boreholes around the site to monitor water quality in a similarly transparent fashion.
The company claims that there have been, and are currently, no significant health impacts from the smelter on workers and the community. “The health study did provide guidance to us about improving aspects of worker health programmes related to hearing protection and lifestyle conditions such as diabetes. The health study also confirmed that medical issues faced by some workers were the result of pre-existing medical conditions contracted before starting working at the smelter,” the DPMT says.
The mining company added that community exposure to arsenic is measured by independent technical parties and is consistently within international guidelines and that community and worker health is also independently monitored by the Namibian government.
“We have worked closely with the community, medical practitioners, the government and the Mine Workers Union to ensure the testing is independent, accurate and reliable. We are consistently improving both our environmental and health programmes to ensure continual alignment with world class standards.”
The mine claims that in the past five-years it has spent close to N$5 billion to improve the local environment, reduce emissions of arsenic and sulphur dioxide, provide support to Tsumeb through its Community Trust and to provide stable and secure employment for hundreds of people.